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Suicide statistics show rates trending down

Provisional 2000 suicide statistics show rates trending down

Latest figures on the rates of suicide are encouraging and provide support to continue efforts in the area of suicide prevention, the Associate Minister Jim Anderton said today.

Provisional all age suicide statistics for the year 2000 released today by the Ministry of Health show the total number of suicide deaths has decreased markedly to 458 in 2000, from a peak in 1998 of 577 and 516 in 1999. The 2000 figure is the lowest number in 14 years.

“It's encouraging to see the number of suicide deaths coming down, especially by more than 100 in two years to the lowest number since 1986. However 458 suicides still represents an unacceptable number of preventable deaths,” said Jim Anderton.

Jim Anderton emphasised how important it is to look at long term trends rather than drawing conclusions from comparing one year to the next.

The suicide rate for the total population in 2000 was 11.2 per 100,000, which is the lowest rate for 15 years. The rate for males was 18.7, and female deaths from suicide were 4 per 100,000 – this is the lowest rate for females since 1961.

Most of the reduction in suicide deaths has occurred in females (83 deaths in 2000 compared with 131 in 1999) with a small decrease in male suicide deaths (375 in 2000, 385 in 1999).

Suicide deaths are trending down overall among both Mäori and non-Mäori, although there was a slight increase in 2000 among Mäori (80 deaths in 2000, 78 in 1999). In 2000, the rate of suicide deaths for Mäori was 13.1 per 100,000, compared to 10.7 per 100,000 for non-Mäori.

In 2000, the 25-29 age group had the highest rate of deaths from suicide. However, the highest rate of hospitalisations from suicide attempts was from the 15-24 age group and stands at 282.4 per 100,000.

"Every suicide is a personal and community tragedy. We need to be clear that we’re talking about lives, not numbers. We must all try to create a supportive inclusive social and economic environment that prevents people from seeing suicide as their only option," said Jim Anderton.

Preventing suicide and suicide attempts across all age groups is a priority under the New Zealand Health Strategy. It involves cooperative efforts from Government, service providers, communities and families.

Jim Anderton has already announced a budget package for suicide prevention that will help reduce not just youth but also all-age suicide.

The separate initiatives include support for families, whänau and friends following a suicide, or an attempted suicide.

It includes support for Youthline, enhanced national coordination, leadership and capacity, and an evaluation of the New Zealand Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy.

“Families, whänau and friends can be particularly vulnerable when they have lost someone to suicide. Where a suicide has been attempted family members can end up being very distressed and vulnerable themselves. On the other hand, with the right support and information they can play a very positive role in helping someone who is suicidal towards recovery,” said Jim Anderton.

The rate of hospitalisation for intentional self-harm in 2000/2001 was 129.2 per 100,000. It is not possible to compare this rate with previous years as the definition of intentional self-harm has been extended to include cases not previously included.

The 2001 provisional youth suicide statistics will be available later this year.

The 2000 statistics are currently only provisional as there are a small number of outstanding deaths awaiting a coroner's finding.

The 2000 statistics are available from the New Zealand Health Information web site: http://www.nzhis.govt.nz.

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